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Namecalling Used by the People¡¯s Republic of China in its Modern National Historiography

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Kim, Sun Hoo
Term Paper, AP World History Class, June 2010

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
I.1 Definition and Use of Namecalling
I.2 Boundary of Modern History of China
II. Primary Sources
II.1 Choice of Primary Sources
II.2 Possible Limitations
III. Subjects of Namecalling
III.1 Qing (Ching) Dynasty
III.1.1 Namecalling regarding Qing¡¯s Subservience to Western Countries
III.1.2 Other Namecalling regarding Qing Government
III.2 Western Nations
III.3 Kuomintang
III.4 Others against Revolution or Communist Party
III.5 Different Communist Factions
IV. Conclusion

I. Introduction

I.1 Definition and Use of Namecalling
            Namecalling, in a broad sense, is labeling of a person or group in a derisive way. In politics, namecalling is a method of propaganda by the government or a group which is intended to invoke fear or hatred toward a country, institution, organization, person, etcetera that holds opposing opinion from that of the government (1). Namecalling defames the political adversary by downplaying the significance or positive aspects of it, exaggerating the existing - often minor but not always - negative sides, or fabricating nonexistent ones.
            Namecalling, because it is useful in invoking feelings of fear or hatred among people, has been an efficient propaganda technique for long time. Especially in the People's Republic of China, namecalling has been almost explicitly used to assail its political enemies and justify the rule of the Communist Party.

I.2 Boundary of Modern History of China
            Modern China includes the period after the Qing dynasty, during which a republic was the form of the government in China and the period during Qing dynasty when many people or groups were struggling to establish republics. Specifically, this paper dealt with the accounts of The Revolution of 1911, the Taiping Revolution, and Chinese Civil war that were written after the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

II. Primary Sources

II.1 Choice of Primary Sources
            The primary sources on which I based my research were two books (The Revolution of 1911 and The Taiping Revolution) from "History of Modern China" series, which were originally published in Chinese language by Shanghai People¡¯s Publishing House and then translated into English by Foreign Language Press, and Notes on Ten Years of Civil War, which was originally published in Chinese language by Peking People's Publishing House and then translated into English by Foreign Language Press. "History of Modern China" series was compiled by members of the history departments of Futan University and Shanghai Teacher's University (2). I judged that these books are appropriate representations of the historiography of The People¡¯s Republic of China first because they were compiled by learned scholars who studied history in China and also because they were published and translated by organizations closely associated with the Government of China. (3)
            The Revolution of 1911 and The Taiping Revolution were published in English in 1976, while Notes on Ten Years of Civil War was first published in 1953 and translated into English in 1954. However, the time difference would not have significantly affected namecalling because the attitude of the People's Republic of China toward the past events and groups involved in them, including Qing government, Kuomintang, etc., did not change much during this period. Not only did the party holding the power remained the same, but Mao Zedong maintained in power until 1976. (4)

II.2 Possible Limitations
            Since I could not read books in Chinese, I could only access the English-translated versions of Chinese history books. Due to difference in two languages, slight differences in word choice or tone in the original version may not have been fully reflected in the translated versions. This fact may have limited the scope of this research. While this limitation was inevitable, I assumed that the limitation would not be significant in most of the cases.

III Subjects of Namecalling

III.1 Qing (Ching) Dynasty
            Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, and after this monarchic regime came modern republics. Not only did Communist regime felt need to justify itself by criticizing the previous one, but also Qing actually was one of the greatest enemy against revolutions necessary to establish Communist government. Namecalling is used to condemn several aspects of Qing government and governors. The Primary aspect of Qing condemned by the history books examined in this paper is its failure to stand firm against western countries. Though warfare and unequal treaties made it difficult for Qing to stay independent of foreign influence (5), the history books tend to assign the blame mostly on Qing for allowing the western intervention. Most of the namecalling is focused on this aspect. Other subjects of criticism include late Qing¡¯s brutal treatment of its people and suppression of revolution. Qing dynasty was centralized, and provincial officials consisted of those who passed Civil Service examinations carried out by the central government; however, the local gentry had strong influence below the county level (6). To make the matter worse, the local officials started to become corrupt during late Qing and imposed heavy tax on poor peasants (7). Also, Qing opposed the concept of democracy and harshly suppressed revolutions, which is natural for a monarchy government, and did not take appropriate reforms needed for the well-being of the people. A few examples of namecalling regarding these aspects are found in the primary sources.

III.1.1 Namecalling regarding Qing¡¯s Subservience to Western Countries
            On page 2 of The Revolution of 1911, the name "Ching" (8) first appears when the author says, "... reactionary Ching government daily revealed its odious features as a servile lackey of the imperialist." (9) A "lackey" is a derogatory term which refers to a person or group that follow others' order completely (10). Thus, the author is exaggerating that Qing boosted the western nations' intervention in China¡¯s internal affairs and violation of rights of Chinese people. The history books employ numerous terms to emphasize that Qing government and its governors (including the emperor) were subservient to western nations. The list of terms, their definition, and their uses is followed.

      R = The Revolution of 1911
      T = The Taiping Revolution
      N = Notes on Ten Years of Civil War (1927-1936)
Term (Title of the book and the page it first appears) Definition Use
lackey (R, 2) [derogatory] a person or group that follows others¡¯ orders without ever questioning them. ... reactionary Ching government daily revealed its odious features as a servile lackey of the imperialist
puppet (R, 3) a person or country whose actions are controlled by a more powerful person or government, even though they may appear to be independent. ... corrupt Ching regime willingly played the role of ¡°puppet emperor¡± as a tool of imperialist aggression.
traitor (R, 14) a person who betrays his country or a group of which he is a member by helping its enemies, especially during time of war. The traitor Li Hung-chang, representing the Ching government ...
flunkey (R, 29) [derogatory] a person who associates himself with people who is powerful and carry out small, unimportant jobs for them in the hope of being awarded. He [Chen Tien-hua] (11) called for the expulsion of the foreign aggressors, and the destruction of the traitors and flunkeys who served them
stooge (R, 42) [derogatory] a person who is used by someone else to do unpleasant or dishonest tasks Yet the Ching government was a stooge of the imperialists and revolution against it meant anti-imperialist revolution.
servile tool (R, 54) servile: [derogatory] too eager to obey someone or do things for him. They pointed out that it had long become a servile tool and stooge of imperialism.
government of national betrayal (R, 54) betrayal: act of giving information to an enemy, putting his country¡¯s security or his friends¡¯ safety at risk. To save the country from partition and extinction, this government of national betrayal had to be knocked down.
Table 1 : List of Namecalling Terms Condemning Qing¡¯s Subservience to Western Countries (12)

            There is also a case when the term itself did not have relation to subservience but was used to criticize the subservience in the context. On page 11 of The Revolution of 1911, the author says, "... traitorous peace treaty signed with the French aggressors by the enemy of the people Li Hung-chang." (14) Here, Li Hung-chang, who represents Qing Dynasty, is labeled as "enemy of the people." Qing Dynasty signed this treaty after losing Sino-French War (15), and the book explains that Qing lost the war because it was corrupt and its "traitorous policy" was "fawning on foreigners." (16)

III.1.2 Other Namecalling regarding Qing Government
            In several occasions, namecalling is used to emphasize how Qing Dynasty suppressed democracy and revolutions. The Revolution of 1911 refers to China under Qing as "prison of nationalities" and "obstacle to democracy." (17) This part emphasizes that the government was oppressive about democracy and revolution. "Barbarous autocracy" (18) used on page 53 is also emphasizes the same point. The author also says, "... the reformists and the Ching government were jackals from the same lair," (19) and Qing government is a jackal because it, "though already rotten to the core, would not relinquish a single crumb of its power." (20) This quote also shows the author¡¯s negative attitude toward Qing which firmly holds on to autocratic power.
            In general, those who took side with Qing and killed many revolutionaries are assigned bad names. The naming of Sengalintsin, a Mongol noble who fought against Taiping army, as "perpetrator of the numerous atrocities" (21) is an example of namecalling against suppressor of rebellion. Another Qing governor who actively suppressed the Taiping Revolution is named "chief criminal." (22) These naming is in line with the books overall praise of revolutionary spirit of Taiping army and condemnation of Qing army for its brutality.
            There are also uses of namecalling to denounce Qing officials who were harsh against peasants. The Taiping Revolution refers the Hsien Feng Emperor as "the overlord of the whole landlord class" (23), overlord meaning someone with great power who is likely to use it in a bad way (24). Chao Erh-feng, who slew thousands of peasants, is called, "murderous demon-king." (26)
            Lastly, there is a poem cited in The Revolution of 1911:

      As the foxes fled their den,
      Peach-wood puppets took the stage.

            Here, "the foxes" refer to Qing governors, and "peach-wood puppets" refer to those who came after the Qing, which will be dealt later in the paper. This verse criticizes Qing in general rather than a particular aspect of it.

III.2 Western Nations
            Since Qing is condemned for being subservient to the western nations, it can be inferred that these western nations themselves be the targets of namecalling. Western nations are constantly referred to as "imperialist" (28) or "imperialist aggressors." (29) Sometimes specific countries names such as "British," (30) "Japan," (31) or "U.S." (32) precede the labels. Also, there is a sentence that says, "Bringing the wolf into the house,' Chang Chihtung and his like threw open the gates to imperialist economic, political and cultural penetration," (33) where wolf is another label for western countries that interfere with China's internal matters.
            In The Taiping Revolution, there is a sentence : "British and American invaders used Hongkong quite openly as a base for the opium trade." (34) While it is true that these countries later tried to interfere in national affairs of China, they were seeking fair free trade (35) rather than invading China at the point of Opium War. Thus it is exaggeration to call them "invaders" here.
            In The Taiping Revolution, there are uses of namecalling against the foreigners who came to China to put down the revolution. Founders of Foreign Rifle Detachment, which killed huge number of Taiping soldiers using foreign-made guns and artillery, are described as "riffraff who had come to China to seek fortune and adventure." (36) "Riffraff" is a derogatory term referring to a person who is not respectable. Gordon, who led Ever-Victorious Army to suppress the Taiping Revolution, is referred to as "the villainous foreign butcher of the Chinese people." (37) Strong hatred against this foreign general is obvious in this label. Also, the author degrades all the foreign generals who suppressed the revolution by calling them "criminal aggressors." (38) This book clearly holds negative view towards these foreign generals and others who attempted to subdue the revolution.
            The namecalling is also used when referring to Christianity as "a spiritual opium." (39) Though no further condemnation of Christianity is mentioned in the books, this namecalling implies that the author thinks Christianity was attractive to Chinese people and had negative influence on them.

III.3 Kuomintang
            Kuomintang has been ideological enemy of the Communist Party and The People's Republic of China for long time. Throughout the historical books, especially in Notes on Ten Years of Civil War, there is naked criticism against Kuomintang and its members whenever they are mentioned.
            In The Revolution of 1911, Chiang Kai-shek is mentioned while the author is criticizing Yuan Shih-kai, "From the arch-traitor Yuan Shih-kai to the autocrat and traitor to the people Chiang Kai-shek ... all used the "republic" to cloak the counter-revolutionary character of their warlord and big bourgeois-fascist dictatorship." (40) In this sentence, Chiang Kai-shek is named "traitor," and his regime "warlord and bourgeois-fascist dictatorship." Considering that this book is not covering the period during which Chiang Kai-shek was fighting against the Communist Party, this sudden namecalling of Chiang Kai-shek emphasizes the People's Republic of China's hatred toward him.
            In The Taiping Revolution, namecalling is used in roughly two ways. First use of namecalling is to emphasize that Kuomintang is not a justified government of China. Most of the times, terms such as "clique" (41) and "warlord" (42) follow the name "Kuomintang" in place of "government" or "party."
            Another main use of namecalling is to condemn its violence and aggressiveness. Kuomintang regime is referred to as a "regime of naked military terrorism" (43) when the author is comparing Kuomintang with warlords that preceded it. The author also says, "Compradors, gangsters, warlords, and party roughs interchanged positions in finance and politics and combined to form an incongruous comprador-gangster administration." (44) Here, the author defames the people who originally constituted Kuomintang as warlords and gangsters to disparage the party itself. The term "warlord" in the previous paragraph is also an example of a term suggesting Kuomintang's military character.
            There is also a label emphasizing that Kuomintang provided an environment in which imperialism of western nations could prevail. The author says, "... the Kuomintang leaders and their stooges were not able to change one particle of China's semi-colonial and semi-feudal system and became mere tools of imperialism more servile than their predecessors." (45) Here, Kuomintang members are called "mere tools of imperialism," implying that they did whatever western nations told them to do.
            There are some other terms that defame Kuomintang party in general rather than a specific aspect of it. The author calls Kuomintang as a "servitors of counter-revolution," (46) implying that Kuomintang did anything to suppress or prevent revolutions. Members of Kuomintang are also labeled "harmful parasites" (47) that seek personal gains by exploiting the working class.
            Even though it is true that Kuomintang was a corrupt dictatorship government which made lives of lower class people more different in many places, many names referring to Kuomintang in modern history books are far from objective and deliberately degrade Kuomintang. Namecalling is widely and unrestrictedly used against Kuomintang.

III.4 Others against Revolution or Communist Party
            There were those against the revolutionary forces that did not belong to Qing government or any other entities discussed above. Bourgeois reformists, for example, seemed to share the goal with revolutionaries at first, but they turned out to be, according to the historical sources, pursuing their own benefit even against revolution. It is said, "They [bourgeois reformists] spread monarchist demagogy to mislead the people and emerged as implacable enemies of the revolution." (49 Their political ideology is referred to in a derogatory term, "demagogy."
            Those who held power on local level and levied heavy taxes on the people are named "local despots" and "evil gentry." (50) This increases the impression that they abused their power and made the lives of peasants even more difficult.
            People who originally followed (or seemed to follow) the revolutionary cause and then changed their position are referred to as "traitor" (51) or "double-crosser." (52) These terms imply negative connotation and certainly show the bias of the author.
            Constitutionalist, people who supported constitutional monarchy by cooperating with Qing and carrying out reforms (53) are also condemned in The Revolution of 1911. They were Han people who wished some share of power which was hitherto concentrated to the imperial clan (54). The author points out how their choice to collaborate with Qing was a failure, and that they were exploited by Qing. The author denounces them as "mere cheering squads for the Ching rulers' sham constitutionalism" (55) and "Ching government's parrots." (56) The author also refers to the collaboration between two entities as a "collusion," (57) which has negative connotation meaning "a secret or illegal co-operation, especially between countries or organizations." When the constitutionalists, who were once spared by the revolutionaries, kill many revolutionaries, the author comments, "These bourgeois revolutionaries, having taken pity on snake-like scoundrels, died at their hands." (58) The term "scoundrel" is used to construct an image of the constitutionalists as cheaters. Those constitutionalists who pretended to be revolutionaries but later betrayed them are also portrayed as "counter-revolutionary butcher." (59) Lastly, Constitutionalists are mentioned as "hucksters," (60) which means "a person who tries to sell useless or worthless things in a dishonest or aggressive way," (61) for trying to bargain with Yuan to make the Qing emperor abdicate from the throne.
            There are also namecalling regarding Yuan Shih-kai. Although he was technically a Qing general, he actually competed with Qing government for the support of the western governments. On page 126, the author of The Revolution of 1911 refers to Yuan Shih-kai as "the counter-revolutionary 'strong man" (62) who was an "accomplice of imperialism." (63) A "strong man" is "a person who has power and uses it in a violent or morally wrong way," (64) and an "accomplice" is "a person who helps others commit a crime;" (65) thus both are intended to disapprove Yuan. The author also employs the term "lackey," which has been used to refer to Qing several times, to call Yuan "an even more ferocious lackey of imperialism than those of the past" (66) On page 129, the poem mentioned previously also contains the namecalling against Yuan and his like

      As the foxes fled their den,
      Peach-wood puppets took the stage.

            Here, "peach-wood puppets" refer to the people who gained power as Qing declined, including Yuan Shih-kai. The passage elaborates on this labeling, "As the Ching regime tottered towards downfall, a host of "peach-wood puppets" - ghosts and demons, big and small came onstage to trample on the people as their predecessors had done." (68) The author explicitly expresses his condemnation over this group of people by calling them "ghosts and demons."
            There were Confucius scholars and landlords who supported Qing government and led local militias. Tsen Kuo-fan, a Confucian scholar, massacred many peasants, and he is presented as "Tseng the Head-Chopper" in The Taiping Revolution. (69) Another figure is Miao Pei-lin, a captain of a landlord militia who turned to revolutionaries but secretly helped Qing. The author says, "Meanwhile, however, this rogue had maintained secret connections with the Ching general Shengpao." (70 The term "rogue" here means "a person who behaves in a dishonest or criminal way." (71)
            Finally, there is namecalling against classes which Communists naturally condemn, including bourgeoisies and landlords. National bourgeoisies are described as "puppets" who earned posts in the Kuomintang government because the Kuomintang wanted to hide its dictatorship. (72) Landlord classes and rich peasants together are referred to as "the real exploiting classes." (73)

III.5 Different Communist Factions
            Namecalling against other Communist factions is mild or nonexistent, for they have not been the country's main enemy. The Trotskyite Chen Tu-hsiu Clique, for example, was criticized for not following the right way but was not the target of namecalling. There was another faction constantly referred to as "opportunists." (74) This name implies the author's negative view of this faction, but no further namecalling is used. Criticism over it is also mild throughout the book; most of their wrongdoings are justified as errors. IV Conclusion
            Namecalling is an effective means of propaganda which links a person or group to a concept of negative connotation. It has been extensively used by The People's Republic of China to disapprove various groups and their members that had been obstacle to Communist regime or that held ideology contradicting with Communism.
            Such namecalling is prevalent in modern history of China recorded under The People¡¯s Republic of China. The history texts are far from being objective; they openly condemn Qing, Kuomintang, Western countries, constitutionalists, and many other enemies of Communism and peasant/worker class.


1.      "Name Calling" from Wikipedia
2.      "Publisher's Note" from The Taiping Revolution and The Revolution of 1911
3.      "Foreign Languages Press" from Wikipedia
4.      "Mao Zedong" from Wikipedia.
5.      Moise. Modern China: A History p 32.
6.      ibid. p 26
7.      Ibid. p 33.
8.      Some of the spelling of Chinese names in the primary sources are different from the ones used today, and ¡°Ching¡± here obviously refers to Qing.
9.      The Revolution of 1911. p 2.
10.      "Lackey." from Collins 2006
11.      Chen Tien-hua was a propagandist who supported revolution and criticized Qing and western powers (The Revolution of 1911, p 29.
12.      All the definitions were found in Collins 2006
13.      Terms that appeared in more than one book were listed only once because this paper focuses on appearance of namecalling in the history recorded under THE PEOPLE¡¯S REPUBLIC OF CHINA and not in individual sources.
14.      The Revolution of 1911. p 11.
15.      Ibid. p 11
16.      Ibid. p 12.
17.      Ibid. p 53.
18.      Ibid p 53.
19.      Ibid p 54
20.      Ibid p 54.
21.      The Taiping Revolution. p 163
22.      Ibid. p 125.
23.      Ibid. p 36.
24.      "Overlord." Collins 2006
25.      The Revolution of 1911. p 101.
26.      Though the author puts it in double quotation, the his mention of such label right before describing slaughter of thousands of peasants shows that the author considers it to be appropriate to some degree.
27.      The Revolution of 1911. p 129.
28.      Ibid. p 2.
29.      Ibid. p 41.
30.      Ibid. p 71.
31.      Ibid. p 47.
32.      Ibid. p 76.
33.      Ibid. p 106
34.      The Taiping Revolutoin. p 2.
35.      Before Treaty of Nanking, it was China that actually had unfair advantage in trade relation by encouraging export while restricting import. ("Opium Wars" from Wikipedia.)
36.      The Taiping Revolution. p 106.
37.      Ibid. p 148
38.      Ibid. p 138.
39.      Ibid. p 14
40.      The Revolution of 1911. p 160..
41.      The Taiping Revolution. p 1
42.      Ibid. p 4.
43.      Ibid. p 5.
44.      Ibid. p 6.
45.      Ibid. p 43
46.      Ibid. p 2.
47.      Ibid. p 9.
48.      This label and many other incidents of namecalling appear in direct quotations from other sources, but I still assume them to be parts of the record because the author completely agrees with them.
49.      The Revolution of 1911. p 45.
50.      Ibid. p 75.
51.      Ibid. p 61.
52.      Ibid.. p 62.
53.      Ibid. p 80-81.
54.      Ibid. p 82.
55.      Ibid. p 86.
56.      Ibid. p 91.
57.      Ibid. p 86.
58.      Ibid. p 137.
59.      Ibid. p 135.
60.      Ibid. p 153.
61.      "Huckster." Collins 2006
62.      The Revolution of 1911. p 126.
63.      Ibid. p 127.
64.      "Strongman." Collins 2006
65.      "Accomplice." Collins 2006
66.      The Revolution of 1911. p 128.
67.      Ibid. p 129.
68.      Ibid. p 129.
69.      The Taiping Revolution. p 60.
70.      Ibid. p 122.
71.      "Rogue" Collins 2006
72.      Notes on Ten Years of Civil War p 7.
73.      Ibid. p 46
74.      Ibid. p 23.


Note: websites quoted below were visited between February and May of 2010..

Primary Sources
1.      Chen, Po-ta. Notes on Ten Years of Civil War (1927-1936). Peking, China: Foreign Languages Press, 1954.
2.      The Revolution of 1911. Peking, China: Foreign Languages Press, 1976
3.      The Taiping Revolution. Peking, China: Foreign Languages Press, 1976.

Secondary Sources
4.      Gasster, Michael.?Chinese Intellectuals and the Revolution of 1911: The Birth of Modern Chinese Radicalism.?Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1969
5.      Mo?se, Edwin E.?Modern China: A History. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Longman 1994.
6.      "Name calling."?Wikipedia. 17 Feb. 2010.
7.      "History of the People¡¯s Republic of China."? Wikipedia. 9 Mar. 2010.
8.      "History of the Communist Party of China."? Wikipedia. 13 Feb. 2010.
9.      "Foreign Languages Press."? Wikipedia. 13 Feb. 2010.
10.      "Mao Zedong."?Wikipedia. 13 Feb. 2010.
11.      "Opium Wars."? Wikipedia. 13 Feb. 2010.
12.      Collins Cobuild Advanced Learner's Dictionary. 5th ed. CD-ROM. Vers. 2.2. 2006.

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